It’s OK to Be Angry – Just Try to Channel It Constructively
A bladder cancer diagnosis, for yourself or someone you love, is overwhelming. Even so-called good news (on the cancer spectrum) of an early stage diagnosis does not feel good. It’s hard not to be angry. Sometimes anger is most intense at the outset, sometimes it compounds over time, or perhaps it’s a chronic, low-grade ever-present feeling.
Anger is normal
This is normal. I think there is often too much pressure on patients and families to be positive. That’s not to say it is not immensely valuable to be positive – it can certainly help us feel better moment to moment. But positivity that entirely squelches the normal sense of anger can, I think, backfire in the long run.
A bladder cancer diagnosis is an onslaught of new words, choices, data, coming at us rapid fire. While trying to process this practical information, we are often stunned at the reality that cancer has infiltrated our lives. I experienced a churning background loop of questions in those early days: Why my husband? What caused this – his habits are healthy? Who can understand what this feels like? How do I keep functioning and get help but not pity? How do I stay hopeful and helpful for him?
If you find yourself (or a family member) in the early days of a bladder cancer diagnosis, pause for a moment to reflect upon just how much information has come at you. And how many questions have cycled again and again through your mind. And how overwhelming all of it can feel. Try to pinpoint whether and how often you feel angry about the diagnosis.
And then give yourself credit. You are here. You are in the moment. You are doing the best you can to make sense of it. You may not like it. You may be furious. But you are finding your way through as best you can. There is so much in life we cannot control, and cancer is a very big one.
Allow yourself to express anger
Allow yourself and the patient (if you are the caregiver) to express anger in an appropriate context. This could mean attending a support group, meeting with a therapist or writing a letter to cancer that no one will ever see. It can be as private as is right for the individual. But being allowed to express the anger is an important key to functioning well day to day.
We do what we can
Beyond that, we do what we can. From a practical perspective, this may mean gaining a basic understanding of the diagnosis, the medical team’s role, the treatment options, and the likely side effects. From a self-care and patient care perspective, this may mean pinpointing what rituals and activity will help both patient and caregiver stay sane. Knowledge and action can often feel like good substitutes for control.
Rituals and activities to stay sane
Here are some ideas:
- Cancer-Free Days on a regular basis (no medical appointments, no talk of cancer, doing something fun)
- Identifying mundane work that can be outsourced to friends, family or hired help
- Exploring soothing activities specifically for patients and caregivers at a cancer center or nonprofit such as art therapy, yoga, meditation, writing, or whatever might appeal to you
- Planning, to the extent, a short trip or outing that everyone can look forward to – it might be a day trip, a movie, a special meal – anything that will be a treat
Have you ever experienced caregiver burnout?